Blog | Using Feedback To Improve Processes In The NHS

Published January 12, 2017 by Marcus Evans

Healthcare
Using Feedback To Improve Processes In The NHS

With the growing success of listening and feedback initiatives there is an increasing focus within the NHS on using staff feedback to improve how Trusts operate. It’s about optimising existing processes to engage staff, save money and enhance the quality of patient care.

Essentially, if we can use feedback to better understand the positives and negatives of individual processes, we can do something about improving them – and potentially also track whether any specific changes we’re making are having the desired effect on bottom line metrics such as patient outcomes or financial KPIs.

As an example, we might ask is the recruitment process encouraging or hindering potential recruits? If it’s not working well, we can identify at which point in the process the problems occur and how things can be fixed or improved. In fact I’ve seen numerous examples of feedback driving process improvements and helping to increasing efficiency; from highlighting how to get more new starters to register with Bank by creating an automatic registration process, to giving staff the freedom to speak up about any wrongdoing they might witness by using feedback technology to help better retain employee anonymity.

So intelligent use of feedback can highlight if a process is failing to deliver or causing frustrations and what we can change to improve it, often also increasing efficiency and helping to make cost savings. However, there are three key points to bear in mind:

1. Remove silos

One of the big problems with the way I’ve seen feedback surveys managed in many trusts today is siloed thinking and a lack of co-ordination. Typically there can be a large number of cross-departmental teams running individual feedback initiatives using a huge variety of basic online survey tools or even paper questionnaires - Friends & Family Surveys, HR surveys, patient satisfaction surveys, the list goes on and on. Often, because all these surveys aren’t co-ordinated they frequently ask the same or similar questions, meaning a lot of wasted effort and declining response rates as staff and patients tire of providing the same information again and again. On top of this, paying separately to using a large number of different feedback tools usually works out more expensive than relying on a single centralised platform.

2. Hear it first hand

To find out where processes can be improved, it is essential to collect feedback from those in the frontline, so ensure that you are talking to staff about their experiences and ideas. This means you need to make the feedback collection process easy and quick so that employees can give their opinions with the minimum effort on their part. Digital technologies, such as online communities make this simple, as they can be accessed from any internet-connected device, such as a smartphone, wherever and whenever an employee wants.

3. Collect it quickly

While the NHS Staff Survey delivers valuable information on the levels of engagement amongst your workforce, it is an annual exercise. That means that staff could well have forgotten details of feedback that they want to give around specific processes by the time they complete it – or they may feel that their opinions are too specific to include when filling it in. Therefore, don’t rely on the annual survey to collect feedback – ensure that you are listening to staff regularly, through pulse or ad hoc surveys focused on particular processes or areas of their job. Consider enabling ‘always-on’ feedback so that employees can give their views on a constant basis, ensuring that you can take action on their insight to show that their feedback is driving results.

Feedback provides valuable learnings that can help trusts do things better and at a lower cost. Ideally however trusts need to think more strategically to make sure feedback collection is implemented in an intelligent, co-ordinated way. That way, you cut out duplication, manage costs and reduce the chance of survey fatigue among employees.


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